How to Lose Weight with Airline Food

We bet you’ve guessed the short and overly-simplified answer to “how to lose weight with airline food”: Don’t eat it. But the good news is, some airline snacks and meals are significantly better than others in terms of healthy ingredients and fewer calories, or so says a recently released report from the DietDetective’s Charles Platkin. Plus there are other options for the weight-conscious.

How to avoid getting sick on a plane

Fly the Right Airline

Using an incredibly detailed rating system including everything from all-encompassing menu listings with specific calorie counts to airline cooperation in providing nutritional information, the report ranks the airlines as follows, from best to worst (quotes are from the report):

  1. Virgin America: “Virgin America is still doing a fantastic job with their meals – truly fantastic.”
  2. Air Canada: “Breakfast, other than the bagel, is a home run on Air Canada.”
  3. Alaska Airlines: “They have a strong menu, and food is clearly relevant to [their] overall reputation.”
  4. JetBlue: “Keep in mind, the individual snacks are free, so don’t take more than one.”
  5. United Airlines: “Some improvement on individual snacks and overall food choices, but United can do much better.”
  6. American Airlines: “The good news is that American is offering at least one relatively healthy item in each category – not great, but passable.”
  7. US Airways: “While they are definitely moving in the right direction, they still need to add a few really healthy snacks (other than nuts).”
  8. Delta Air Lines: “Delta has a few healthy items, but their selection could still use work.”
  9. Spirit Airlines: “Not too much in terms of healthy options.”
  10. Frontier Airlines: “Disappointing news: Frontier is no longer offering fresh food options on any of its flights, but they did improve their individual snacks by adding a Larabar (big fan) and Kashi Oatmeal.”
  11. Southwest Airlines: “Not much variety and not much in terms of nutritional value.”
  12. Allegiant Air: “They did not provide ANY nutritional information for their food.” [But the DietDetective managed to find it on his own].

Best overall comment by Dr. Platkin: “It is still a huge mystery to me why airlines don’t see healthy, tasty foods as a profit center.” Maybe because most of us prefer McDonald’s – which brings us to the choices section.

Make the Right Choices

Dining in the sky, especially for leisure travelers, can be seen as part of the whole vacation experience and enjoying an unhealthy, fat-laden snack may be just another “I’m on vacation!” treat. Besides, on a long flight, food is an excellent time-waster. This is where discipline comes in. Say you’re on a JetBlue flight and you decide to purchase one of their meals; which do you choose, the roast beef sub or the quinoa salad? (Hint: the sub is 570 calories and the salad is 300). Avoiding alcohol and sugary soft drinks is another way of avoiding extra calories.

Bring Your Own Food

Avoid all mystery ingredients – and excess calories – by bringing food from home. Some suggestions:

  • Fresh fruit
  • Hummus (smoosh it between a couple of plain rice cakes)
  • Fresh salad from home (maybe add some tuna but easy on the dressing)
  • Low-calorie snack bars (Special K has some and there are good supermarket brands)
  • Small bags of nuts (good for you but high in calories)
  • Small box of cereal (get the milk when the cart comes around)
  • Cottage cheese (bland, yes, but not if you lace it with sriracha sauce)

It’s not like you’re burning up a whole lot of calories stuck in that squashed little plane seat. Which leads us to the next section.

Cool things to see at the airport

Don’t Just Sit There

When you’re waiting in the airport, get some exercise – get up and move. Walk around and see some of the unique attractions in your airport. And here’s a sobering thought: Burning off even those mere 300 calories in the quinoa salad will take 65 minutes of walking.


Published: December 18, 2013